Diversity in Education: More important than music.

Michelle Dewberry.


I never thought I’d blog about a former winner of the The Apprentice, but here we are…

Dewberry is a familiar face on The Pledge; a show that appears to be Question Time but without any actual questions from an audience. Have a watch of the first ninety seconds of this segment from a recent episode. Dewberry is arguing for a radical change to the education system by businesses ‘having a say in the skills being taught’ as our current curriculum has ‘no use at all in the real world’.

It’s not Dewberry’s proposal to radically change the education system that annoys me. What is so infuriating is how she champions ignorance so brazenly in the debate. Who is she to say what knowledge has ‘use in the real world’? What does that even mean?

I spend a good portion of my working week teaching opera arias to primary school children. I’m going to assume that Michelle would class my work as ‘not fit for purpose’. With Michelle’s rationale, if the children I work with do not pursue a career as an opera singer, then all those music classes were a waste of everyone’s time.

It would be easy to point out the wider benefits a subject like music has, such as how it teaches empathy, encourages teamwork, forces you to make creative decisions as well as a whole ream of other buzzword attributes that would bag you a place on The Apprentice. It would be very appealing to point out how misguided Michelle is, but there’s a much more substantial issue that needs addressing.

The arts are valuable, but diversity of knowledge is even more valuable. Whilst it is important to advocate the arts, we have a societal responsibility to not simply look after our own sector, but allow young people to have the option to chase a passion that speaks to them personally.

There’s been lots of talk in the Music Education sector of STEM to STEAM, effectively the idea of bringing the arts into the collection of core subjects that are science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I’m glad that we trying to foster creativity in our core subjects, but why should we have core subjects at all? By aspiring to sit at this artificial top table we’re effectively reducing other subjects to Dewberry’s ‘not fit for purpose’ category. It’s great if a child wants to engage with music, but it’s equally great if they want to engage with history or learning a language. We absolutely should champion music and the rest of the arts, but never at the expense of other subjects.

A few months back, I heard a rather damaging call to arms for music from Yo-Yo Ma that exemplifies this: “Remember those boring classes? We don’t want them. Instead we want passion driven education”. Speak for yourself Ma, but don’t tell others what they should be passionate about. Champion choice for young people above music.

As we all know, the voice of the far-right is growing. The troubling rhetoric of looking after our own first has become more present. Don’t simply look after your own industry. We should champion diversity, not just as a society, but in how we educate, or else people might actually take Michelle’s ideas seriously.

All opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own. Please leave comments below.

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